Creating A Powerful Brand Manifesto

Mark Di SommaMay 20, 20138713 min

On All Saint’s Day 1517, Martin Luther posted the 95 Theses on the door of Castle Church, sparking, in the eyes of many, what would become the Protestant Reformation. Whether or not he actually did post the Theses (of course there is historical debate) and what that generated are off-topic, but the action of pinning your colors to a statement of beliefs for all the world to see lies at the core of building and articulating an opinionated brand.

Brands build trust through behaviors. And behaviors should be based on clear principles. Those principles should bring your purpose to life by laying out the clear psychological guidelines within which your brand operates. They are, when done well, an inspiring précis of your organization’s worldview.

Martin Lindstrom made the brand case for opinion for me in this post several years ago when he wrote: “The fact is that consumers are tiring of perfectly polished brands. Inoffensive brands. … Brands without well-defined opinions will find it increasingly difficult to gain traction in the market place. The challenge is to ensure that the opinions are in tune with the core values of the brand. That they are authentic, and not an opportunistic and superficial play for attention by deception.

Diesel’s famous “Be Stupid” is one of my all-time favorites. It’s a wonderful mix of observation, grace, defiance, sarcasm, insight and counter-intuition that lays out Diesel’s anti-smart stance, including the fabulous assertion that “Stupid is the relentless pursuit of a regret-free life”. You’re left in no doubt as to Diesel’s abiding philosophy, and the case is put in such a way that the viewer is pretty much asked to choose one way or the other, stupid or smart.

So what’s the basis for a powerful manifesto? Jean-Claude Saade captured it nicely here with the thought that there are 7 doors to connection between people and brands:

• Shared values, such as peace, equality and liberty;
• Shared roots including religion, ethnicity, language, culture, citizenship, education, profession and geography;
• Shared fights, be they political, environmental or ethical;
• Shared pursuits such as wealth, power, information and notoriety;
• Shared lifestyle aspirations;
• Shared passions, including sports, arts, music and travel; and
• Shared preferences, including food, drinks, cars and clothing

What’s clear from Saade’s observation is that there are rich and diverse grounds for creating likeability. The challenge though doesn’t lie in finding your point of affinity. The hardest thing about creating a compelling manifesto is having your own take as a brand on that intense point of connection.

A powerful manifesto stems from a disruptive premise. And an inspiring narrative. My suggestion: Don’t write a piece of prose. Write a rallying cry in the media of your choice, with:

• The anger of a placard
• The commitment of a doctrine
• The beauty of a story
• The hope and excitement of a vivid dream
• The sense of a philosophy and
• The call to action of a direct response ad.

You’ve nailed your manifesto when it evokes one very, very simple response: “Couldn’t have said it better myself …”

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